Hors Pistes, exhibited at WantedDesign Brooklyn part of Oui Design, is an international residency program founded by product designers Amandine David and Marie Douel. It sponsors travel workshops for young designers to expand their areas of expertise by collaborating with craftspeople from other cultures around the world. Participants visited Burkina Faso in 2013 and 2014 and will travel to Nuuk, Greenland in 2017. Hors Pistes participated in Craftsmen and Designers, a panel discussion held on May 18, 2017 at WantedDesign/Brooklyn. The panel consisted of Dmitri Bahler, a Swiss designer who participated in the 2013 residency in Ougadougou; Amandine David; Andrea Lipps, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Design at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum; and Nicolas Randin, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United States. The discussion was moderated by Oliver Haugen, head of Swissnex Boston’s NY outpost.
Collaborations from the workshops were on display at the WantedDesign Hors Pistes booth, ranging from palm frond baskets to lost-wax cast process bronze bowls, roof tiles made of discarded flip flop soles, masks, and sand cast aluminum tables. The exhibition was part of Oui Design, the initiative launched and supported by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and benefited from additional support of the Swiss Embassy and Swissnex Boston, NY Outpost.
Q: Why did you start off the program in Africa, and why in particular Burkina Faso?
Amandine: Marie and I happened to travel there for a personal experience. All the craft workshops in Burkina Faso are open to the streets, so you can connect easily to the designers just by walking around. We met amazing craftsmen and were inspired to collaborate with them to mix up our cultures and human encounters.
Q: How did you arrive at Greenland as the next destination?
Amandine: We wanted to take a step out of Africa, and we very much appreciate the way the Inuit craftspeople use natural materials linked to their way of living: hunting, fishing, and animalistic beliefs. Greenland is a big country with very few resources so the Inuit are extremely economical in how they use the available materials, such as seals. All parts of the seal are used: different parts of its skin are used to make shoes or gloves or heavier clothing, the bones and teeth are used for carving; nothing is wasted.
Dimitri Bahler created eight masks combining cast bronze and fibers in the Ougadougou workshop. He returned in 2015 to create three new masks, also modular but this time in cast aluminum and cotton. At home he works on 5 to 10 industrial design projects at a time, but in Burkina Faso he was able to focus on the masks only, and found it an almost meditative experience.
Dimitri: When I arrived, I knew nothing. I had to simply jump in! I was so exhausted from sleeping on the floor on a piece of cardboard (and I was also sick). Still, I love to push limits like that. My experience was like the extreme sports of design.
Amandine Designers can travel around the city to find other crafts people or a new context and dig deeper to add to their projects.That’s what Dmitri did, he ended up working with three different crafts people: a metal caster, some weavers, and then a saddler to help stitch things together.
Andrea: Over the past 10 to 15 years, design is getting more and more collaborative, a global explosion of creativity and expression. The collaborative process means that an idea does not result in just an object on a plinth. It’s also the narrative behind the collaboration; the stories are broader, there are different entry points.
By Angela Riechers – To provide an insight into our exhibitions, WantedDesign is proud to partner with the SVA MA Design Research program, which pairs students for future-facing careers in research, publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, and entrepreneurship or for continued studies in a design-related subject.